Colombia

COLOMBIA: After landmine kills boy, CPT Colombia receives new accompaniment request

Over a decade ago, the campesinos of Micoahumado made international headlines when they engaged in dialogue with three armed groups whose fight landed them in the crossfire: the ELN (National Liberation Army), the Colombian military, and the government-supported right-wing paramilitaries.   The dialogue–facilitated by the Catholic Church–was an almost unprecedented step towards reducing violence, promoting peace, and recovering civilian autonomy in the region. All three groups agreed to refrain from engaging each other in open combat in areas populated by civilians, and not involve civilians in their wars.  The ELN further agreed to remove existing landmines and refrain from planting new ones on Micoahumado’s lands and roads.

For the past decade, Micoahumado’s peaceful strategies had been working. Until recently.

Just the other week in a place not too far from Micoahumado, a fourteen-year-old boy, walking in the fields, stepped on a landmine.  The landmine’s explosive force tore his limbs from his body, killing him instantly.  Soon after, in Caoba (one of the ten communities that make up Micoahumado), a farmer’s cow grazing in the field wandered over a landmine. The loss of the cow was a severe blow to the farmer’s livelihood. In addition to the landmines there is now also increasing Colombian military presence in populated areas.

In the face of these re-emerging threats, the campesinos of Micoahumado are reaffirming dialogue as the most effective path to peace.  And they have requested that Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an international organization that sends teams of peace workers into conflict areas around the world, increase their accompaniment of Micoahumado. 

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 4, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, March 4, 2015

Pray for the campesin@s (farmers) in Micoahumado, Las Pavas, El Guayabo and other communities that are resisting forced displacement. Pray that they continue working their lands and growing with love the food that we enjoy in our tables. 

Photo: Fundación Chasquis – Contact: Regula Gattiker - Juan Manuel Peña - Ricardo Torres.

 

“A campesin@ without land is like a fish without water.”

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Justice favors the powerful


It was my second accompaniment since I began work in Colombia. Tito had been on the receiving end of a severe beating two years ago and was headed down the river to El Peñon for a court hearing of his case. As we settled into the community boat that would take us to El Peñon, an hour and a half away, Pierre filled me in on Tito’s case with the comment, “It’s crazy, really. If it was Tito who beat them up, he’d already have been tried and sentenced.”

As much as I know that this is true, and accepted it as he said it, a little piece of me still felt surprised. Why should this be true? When I consider the principle of the law, everything feels clear cut to me. If one person assaults another, the perpetrator must face the legal consequences of those actions, regardless of who they are. Why should the process change, become longer or shorter or more or less vigorous? The law is clear: physically and violently assaulting someone is wrong. Why, if this were Canada…

And it is this thought that stops me in my tracks, because I know that the reality of a broken justice system is true both here in Colombia and in my own country. The law favours certain people in both places. It favours the influential, the rich, those with resources.  Above all, it favours the powerful, be it power of connections, money or skin colour.

Prayers for Peacemakers, February 18, 2015

Prayers for Peacemakers, February 18, 2015

Pray for Las Pavas community in Colombia. Pray for the land and crops of these campesinos (farmers) that are under the threat of Aportes San Isidro palm oil company. The company has installed fences within the campesinos land, creating physical obstacles that impede their access their own lands. Pray that the Collective Reparation Process that the Colombian government has offered this community as a way to compensate victims of the armed conflict becomes an immediate reality. Pray for the campesinos that work the land and allow us to have food on our tables.  

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Photo: Aportes San Isidro palm oil company has installed this gate five times, even after municipal authorities have declared illegal and removed it. Somehow, the gate has been put back time after time. Follow this link to learn more about this situation

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15)


COLOMBIA: El Guayabo demands that armed men leave their community

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Community members retake possession of
Rincón's property

After a week of confrontations between the El Guayabo community members and armed men installed by Rodrigo Lopez Henao on Henry Rincón’s property, Lopez’s men have left the land.  Riot police illegally evicted Rincón from the property in October at the bidding of Lopez.

When CPT arrived at El Guayabo on 31 November, the military was camped at the town’s port.  On 1 December, the military came to investigate the situation on the farm, having heard reports that there were firearms in the vicinity, but they did not act.  Their visit left the community disappointed and wary of the military’s position.  In the evening, Lopez sent in extra men to guard the house, leaving a total of ten guards on the property.

Prayers for Peacemakers December 3, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers December 3, 2014

Pray for the community of El Guayabo, who are feeling discouraged that the Colombian authorities appear to be taking no action to address the illegal eviction of October 29, 2014 when riot police removed the community's school teacher from his home. The powerful landowner Rodrigo Lopez Henao who took control of the house added additional armed men to guard it on Tuesday evening.

 Epixel for Sunday, December 7, 2014
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his
 people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may
 dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss
 each other.
Psalm 85:8-10
 
 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's  
Revised Common Lectionary  readings.

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

COLOMBIA: Communities around El Guayabo establish a “Space for Peace and Non-Violent Resistance against Dispossession.”

On 14 November, seventy community members of Guayabo established a space for peace.  The women led the march, flying banners and singing, setting up camp around the house currently occupied by Rodrigo López Henao’s men since the eviction of 29 October 2014.

Since the occupation of the property, López Henao’s  men have destroyed about 100 plantain trees.  The community began replanting the trees with recovered sees on 14 November.

The community intends to remain on the land surrounding the house until their situation is legally resolved and the authorities return their land to them.  Through the below declaration of a space for peace and their commitment to nonviolent acts of resistance they hope to make their situation more visible.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The Magdalena

 

 

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most controversial and mysterious Biblical characters.  Unjustly pegged as a prostitute and temptress by Pope Gregory I, her reputation remained tarnished for around seven centuries before Biblical scholars redeemed her by untangling the three women whose stories Gregory had merged.  Though we know very little about her life, we do know that she was a person of importance to Jesus.  He used his gifts to cast seven demons out of her, and chose her to be one of the first people to see him after the resurrection.  Her story is an interesting one to contemplate as I travel along ‘El Rio Magdalena,’ a beautiful river named after her, that has a similarly tainted reputation.

 

The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river, and stretches from the most southern tip of the Huila Department* in southern Colombia to the Caribbean Sea.  The river is CPT’s main mode of transportation between Barrancabermeja, the city where we live, and the communities that we accompany.  Its banks are peppered with trees, fishing canoes and water taxis traveling past each other lazily, and children swim in its murky water.  Outsiders may view the present tranquil atmosphere and have difficulty imagining anything else.  Those who have lived along the river’s banks for more than ten years, however, see it differently.

COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land

CPTnet
13 November 2014
COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land


Puerto Wilches municipal authorities carried out an illegal eviction on 29 October 2014 in El Guayabo, during which riot police accompanied Rodrigo Lopez Henao in seizing Henry Rincon’s house and property.

Within an hour of arriving, 164 riot police had taken control of the house and removed all community members from the property.  Shortly after, unidentified men began to move into the house with suitcases.

They have remained in the house since, accompanied by the police for three days.  On Thursday, 30 October, the men removed a fence and began to chop down trees on the neighbouring farm with police accompaniment.  The community confronted the police about their partiality to Lopez Henao’s men and their illegal actions, and upon orders from their colonel in Barrancabermeja, the police asked the men to rebuild the fence along the original borders.

On 4 November, the attorney general’s office summoned two community members to make a statement against claims from Lopez Henao that they had threatened him and invaded his land.

The community has now built three houses around the property limits of Rincon’s house as part of a self-protection plan in light of the unknown men living in the house.